Corrupting the feminist brand: How I got suckered by The Good Men Project

*TRIGGER WARNING*

In an age of spin marketed as information (see: green washing and faux-news “promoted” in your social media feeds), it makes navigating the, perhaps naive, notion of truth feel at times perilous. After all, what does any journalist-turned-syndicated-blogger have in this world if not her reputation? Her credibility? I’ve been struggling with this question all weekend. This admittedly long post is my attempt to right a wrong.

Whether you’ve been a Siren for the life of this nearly six-year-old blog or are one of the many new readers who’ve signed up for email alerts, followed me on twitter, friended me on Facebook, or even subscribed via Kindle — and I thank you all equally, truly — what I strive to give you is not only my unfiltered, feminist agenda on politics and society but that you know at its core that what I’m giving you is a piece of myself. I speak from my modest soapbox and preach the gospel that is true for me: All people are equal; bigotry and hatred in any form or -ism is not only immoral, but an abomination to the God I believe in (and I do welcome all faiths, including the faithfully atheist); women deserve autonomy over their bodies in all areas of life; and that in the big picture we are not just connected to each other but we have a responsibility to each other and future generations whether it’s about getting real about the climate crisis or small stuff like actually getting to know your neighbors. I don’t organize rallies for women’s reproductive freedom or hate crimes events to just talk about today. I do it for my daughter — for all our daughters and sons.

You might read that and think it sounds cheesy or overly idealistic. They used to call me Pollyanna in the newsroom. I take it as a compliment. I consider myself a pragmatic optimist. I see that the cup is half-full and half-empty; so what are we going to do about it? I rarely entertain a big idea or embark on organizing something without a plan B, C, and sometimes D. I derive a kind of power from answering that nasty question: What’s the worst that could happen? I let it push me forward. Because even in my greatest public failures or gaffes — and they happen and live long in the Age of the Internet — I know my intentions are true. But most importantly, when I’ve done my best to make amends or apologize, I learn from it and don’t let my mistakes stop me from aiming big again when the time is right. (In fact, I hope you do the same.)

So this brings me to why my brow has been a bit furrowed this weekend. To be fair, it’s partly the medicine-head stemming from what my doctor calls “a massive ear infection.” (If you are friends with me on Facebook, I apologize for all the whining. But seriously, ouch.) But, let’s face it, I have no one to call in sick to. I’m a one-woman show. I guess I could call in sick to myself. Hey self? Yeah? I’m wicked sick. Oh no, take a couple days. I got this. … Eh, no such luck. So, even with my head pounding, I’m checking my emails and scanning my social media feeds. There’s no robot farm doing that for me. When you see a tweet or Facebook update from The Sin City Siren, it’s me, Emmily. (Hi!) Every time. It’s me.

And in my professional life, The Sin City Siren is my baby. I created it. I’ve nurtured it. I’ve lost sleep over it. (It’s 3 am as I write this.) I’ve spent money I don’t have on it. While I try not to place a misguided amount of importance on things like hit-counts on posts or what my royalty payments are each quarter, I admit it’s hard not to. They are a kind of measure of how much you like what I do. And there’s Facebook and twitter. The number is right there staring me in the face. X number of people follow you. X number of people like this. Back when I worked at a newspaper, I would always have to push out of my mind the circulation numbers. They make X number of copies of this paper and that means that X number of people could (possibly) read my article. Maybe to someone like Beyonce or Tom Hanks the kinds of numbers that have defined my career are small. In fact, compared to some very big feminist blogs, my site is modestly successful. Those sites also have staffs of people, a budget in the black, and (usually) some kind of ad budget to pull more readers in. Kudos to them and their success! I do what I do all alone. Sometimes during toddler naps. Or sometimes hopped up on antibiotics and cough medicine. Because however it might seem to you, I actually do take this seriously. It’s my job. And I don’t do things half-way.

But because I really do put sweat equity into this thing, I care about my credibility. A lot. While I got excited to see my twitter count climb above 800 (thanks!), I don’t just hit the follow button on everything I see. I know that’s supposed to be one of the methods of getting more and more twitter followers — the return-follow. (I follow you; you follow me. Quid pro quo.) But I don’t do that. Partially because reading my twitter feed has gotten increasingly obnoxious as I follow more and more people. And partially it is because I feel a sense of responsibility. I’m not going to follow Ricky Gervais. Ever. Because he tells rape jokes and, in at least one of his specials that I watched, he told a sexual abuse joke. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. It’s not funny. Fuck you, Ricky Gervais. And I take it as a kind of maintenance of my brand to make sure I don’t associate with assholes, anti-feminists, misogynistic anti-abortion types, woman-haters in general, rape apologists, any kind of bigot from homophobic to racist, or any person/entity that is just wasting my time. Now, I’m not going to say that every single person/thing I follow on twitter is beyond reproach. But you’re not going to see Westboro Baptist Church or Chris Brown in my friend box.

So, the other day I was reading an article on something called The Good Men Project, which I just started following recently. A funny little post was sent out on their feed called Things I Won’t Miss About Being a Stay at Home Dad to Babies. If you have ever been the parent of small children, it will make you laugh. (If not, it might make you feel sorry for your friends who do. Compassion is a beautiful thing.) I had started following The Good Men Project after I saw something else by a dad that was funny and insightful. I’m always looking to get a more diverse takes on feminism and progressive issues, especially voices that are not like my own. I seek out feminist male writers. I seek out non-white writers and LGBT writers. Indeed, one of the things that troubles me with social media is how narrowly you can define the parameters of your “news” feed. For most of us, it is all too easy for it to become an echo chamber of all the other people who are just-like-us. We end up talking to ourselves all day by reading tweets and updates that are by all our socio-economic and cultural dopplegangers that populate the tiny window we choose to look through. If one of the criticisms of feminism is that it has been a brand that is built to serve middle-class white women, then I do myself or any of my readers no favors by perpetuating that with what I do with my own feminist space. But I digress…

I had read a few things here and there and I went to The Good Men Project‘s website and read about their mission to discuss the modern male experience. And the few times I’ve gone to their homepage, it usually had some progressive stuff. And while started by men, the staff is populated with women in leadership roles as well as women writers and contributors. They had a nice piece on fat-shaming Melissa McCarthy. When I read 16 Ways to Not Be a Shit Guy, I retweeted it because it was clever and talked about the ways that “real men” should be, by realizing that hugging a dude does not make you gay and that the Photoshopped images in magazines are not real. Maybe some of you saw it and thought, “All of this seems obvious.” I think that every time I write about why I hate Walmart. And then I end up on a conference call with someone who read one of my Walmart posts and after a lifetime of going there, something made her change her mind. And that something was my post. So yeah, sometimes things are obvious to you or me. But they still need to be said. Because as much as everyone likes to think we know everything now that we can get the internet on our phones and shit… Ubiquity is not the same thing as knowledge.

So after that I tweeted out something about how I liked The Good Men Project. In fact, here’s that tweet:

And then a tick later, I got a pretty pointed tweet from someone identified as “No I Will NOT Be Quiet” (@noiwillnotbe) who said:

What the what?! Is this true? Have I unwittingly endorsed an anti-feminist, rape-apologist site?

I went back to their site, but my searches did not come up with anything like what was being described. I tried an Internet search which yielded this Tumblr post about some kind of event-that-is-never-actually-named. And in my sickness fog, I admit I was not really up to a full-on detective mode on this. But I mentioned it to my husband and he started poking around just as my twitter feed was blowing up with a heated debate featuring @noiwillnotbe and Joanna Schroeder (@iproposethis) who is the site’s Senior Editor in Sex & Relationships and Content Partnerships as well as someone I can only identify as “The Good Life” (@GMPgoodlife) who says he writes for The Good Men Project.

It started to get heated.

In a bit of a panic, I went to their website and on that day’s front page was a post called Only Yes Means Yes: Sometimes What You Think is Consensual Sex is Actually Rape. The framing of the piece, written by Everyday Feminism, was a kind of tutorial on all the ways that consent is NOT implied. (Examples included being drunk, being married, or being considered a slut.) While I may not have liked the exact tone of the piece, I recognize that there are some people out there who may be getting this for the first time. Being a wife is not automatic consent for sex. Being labeled “easy” or a “slut” (or working in the sex industry) does not mean that a person has automatically given implicit consent for sex. These points seem extremely obvious to me, but the fact that we live in a rape culture necessitates the need for posts like this.

When I posted the article to @noiwillnotbe she (I assume its a she because of the avatar picture at the time) was not having it:

Fair point. If someone were to tell me that a child molester could, possibly, not know s/he was sexually abusing someone, I would be incredibly pissed off by the insinuation. But I got worried when Joanna Schroeder replied with this:

Maybe not the best response. Because, really, where is that argument going to take us that is at all productive? Do all rapists know they are raping? Do all rapists intend to rape? Would all rapists classify what they’ve done as rape? … You could go on to, How does a society define rape? … Holy shit! That’s a whole ecosystem of worms! I mean, the freaking FBI didn’t even have a modern, inclusive definition of sexual assault (aka rape) until last year! We could go on forever if we go down that rabbit hole. Let me be clear: That is a conversation worth having. But not in 140-fucking-charaters on twitter. At least not by me. (Look at how long this post is, for goodness sake.)

Meanwhile, my husband was wading through link after link, stemming from the Wikipedia page on The Good Men Project, and found some teeth to @noiwillnotbe’s claims. the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic took Good Men to task in December 2012 for publishing a piece by writer Alyssa Royse titled Nice Guys Commit Rape Too. [Trigger Warning!] Royse wrote in defense of her friend who was accused of raping a woman who had openly flirted with him all night and with whom he admits to having sex with after she fell asleep. Apparently, it lit up the feminist blogosphere and twitter-land (here’s the twitter conversation between Good Men creator Tom Matlack and feminist-extraordinaire Jenn Pozner, et al) while I was wrapping Christmas presents or something. I missed it completely. I also missed when (in the same month) they published this piece by an admitted rapist, who says he will continue to do it because he’d rather get laid than worry about being labeled a rapist. [Here's the link and really big TRIGGER WARNING. As well as Senior Editor Joanna Schroeder's defense of publishing it.] And the more I dug into this, the more I saw that GMP may be a proxy front for the particularly alarming new meme of Masculine Rights Activists (or Men’s Rights Activists or MRAs). While GMP might have started out with some quality feminist writers, those folks were jumping ship as The Good Men Project started looking less like a place to define what a good man is, as @GMPGoodLife assured me the site’s mission is, and more like a place to go to get your rape-culture apology on.

Well shitfuckittyfuckfuck you fucking mother-fuckers! I’ve been played.

Maybe after all this, it doesn’t matter to you that I said I liked the posts I had seen on The Good Men Project and any implied endorsement of their brand or activities. We all make mistakes. But I can’t stop thinking about @noiwillnotbe. I want to thank her. I feel like a fool. I’m angry that in order to know the truth about something you have to wade through many, many articles and posts (some since deleted). It’s not enough to scroll through a masthead, scroll through some past articles, and read a mission statement. You have to do a mother-fucking background check just to be triple-sure you’re not getting suckered.

If there is one thing that really pisses me off it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Like a “pregnancy crisis center” that feeds lies to women in order to coerce them out of their reproductive rights, I despise any entity that is either willingly duplicitous or so willfully blind to misogyny and the rape culture it perpetuates that it cannot see that it is a pawn in a game it claims it is not playing. The Good Men Project says it is about “as many definitions of goodness as there are good men,” as Joanna Schroeder tweeted me. But when pressed to answer the simple question: Are you feminist? The answer was, “We cannot answer that for you.” Well, I don’t need you to answer it for me now.

Like I said, my intentions are always true. And when I’m wrong, I apologize. So, I do apologize. Maybe this seems like an unnecessary step. I mean, how harmful is it that I momentarily followed The Good Men Project on twitter and retweeted some of their articles? In the big picture, maybe not much. But I think about @noiwillnotbe… I’m glad you will not be silent. In the newsroom I used to say that for every letter to the editor, you know there are at least a dozen or more who thought the same thing but didn’t take the time to write it down. How many of my feminist friends and followers did I offend by following The Good Men Project? I’ll never know. But I’m sorry.

It’s just me behind this computer screen. Sometimes I fuck up. I’m sorry.

Some of you might think this is a bit much for such a mistake. But that’s how seriously I take what I do on The Sin City Siren as The Sin City Siren. I’ve heard from many of you that you learn things from this site. Well, I learn things from you, too. All the time.

I am a proud feminist. I am proud to have created a feminist space here at SCS. And I like talking with you. I read every tweet you send me. Every comment you post. And even if it takes a while, every email. What you think about SCS matters to me. It’s not just what I do. It’s a big part of who I am.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. If you forgive me, I’m grateful. If you’re mad at me, I understand. I endeavor to learn from this and move on. Together.

16 thoughts on “Corrupting the feminist brand: How I got suckered by The Good Men Project

  1. I read those articles when they came out, and I remember the hullabaloo. I think that the GMP is trying to be edgy and maybe even sensational by publishing work about men who think they are good men but who really are bad men. While I wont say the ARE good men, I would defend the publisher’s choice to bring their stories into the sunlight. And no, it didnt make me stop reading the GMP… they still have a lot of great older stuff and good new stuff. That they wont toe your party line–or anyone else’s–and substitute your journalistic integrity and editorial judgement for theirs is.something I find encouraging. If no one ever took risks, ever crossed the line, a LOT of important discussions would never happen! I read *hundreds* of comments about that “fun loving guy” who did begin to sound more and more like a sociopath as they cut through his layers of bullshit. I think these are important discussions to have. But then, as I have noted to Rabid Feminist on FB, I am just a run of the mill feminist, non-rabid… and sometime, she and I disagree. I dont think that disagreement is an indictment of either of us. Nor does it require the apologies of third parties…

    • GMP is a very feminist site, and that you suggest that they toe your feminist party line is to already paint yourself as intolerant. If you think GMP toes the line, I can only imagine what you think of Mensactvism or VoiceforMen. Those are the sites you should visit if you want a legitimate male response to feminism.

      Oh, and don’t think of them as a bunch of bitter men, as nearly half of the writers on VoiceforMen are enlightened (often previously feminist) women.

  2. I will not be quiet here tweeted: “it’s incredibly insulting to survivors of rape to suggest their rapists “didn’t know” they were raping her.”

    Ironic then that Jill Filipovic in article titled “Is it rape if you don’t mean for it to be rape” published on Feministe argued that there is such a thing as a lack of mens rea when it comes to rape and that they’re not even sure if it matter of one calls it “rape” or not.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/19/is-it-rape-if-you-dont-mean-for-it-to-be-rape/

    Can we expect an article about how Feministe is corrupting the feminist brand?

  3. Hi there Emmily! I’m new to this blog, and came here via a link from a place which are probably way outside your social media funnel, admirably wide as you try to keep it. I try to keep it wide as well, which is why I’m here I suppose.

    I’m from the men’s rights activism community (you didn’t stop reading there, I hope? Beware the echo chamber!) It’s not “masculism”, It’s not “masculine rights” either. People who use those words about themselves haven’t been around for long, don’t have much with us to do. I would have never thought I’d have anything to do in this community. Then I had a son, a couple of years later my wife left me, a couple of years later she did some damn nasty things to me and my son. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say, court case broke me in many ways but ultimately went my way, things are going better, but due to the need to keep a working relationship with my ex I can’t really talk about it under my real name.

    The online men’s rights community grew out of discussion on father’s rights websites, and of the writings of Warren Farrell, a politically liberal, former NOW board member. Also the writings of Christina Hoff Sommers, a somewhat politically conservative feminist. Do look them up. You don’t have to agree with everything.

    Because we rarely do. You get all kinds of MRAs. Some are politically liberal like yours truly, some are libertarian-inclined, some are politically conservative. Some are very hostile to feminism, some seek common ground. But one thing you must never confuse us with is socially conservative anti-feminists. SCAFs want some degree of return to traditional gender roles. We do not, as whatever we disagree on, we think “dying in wars and calling it glory”, to paraphrase Farrell, was a rotten deal on our end.

    The Good Men Project has a dubious history, but not the way you think. It was one of many attempts started by (self-declared) feminists, in order to get some control on this unruly bunch of men who call themselves MRAs.

    The name is a giveaway. Feminist men try to be “good men”. I don’t. I’m not a “bad man” either. I’m not a villain or a knight in shining armor, I’m not our to save the world or enslave it. I just try to live in it – and hopefully help my son get by in it.

    The Good Men project used to be a condescending and offensive place, where our experiences were sanitized and reinterpreted through the authoritative lens of feminist theory. I mean, if you’re 18 years old, was kind of genderqueer in high school, you’ve read some feminist books, possibly that’s still not enough to put you in a good position preach the feminist gospel to 30-year old custody court veterans.

    Over time, some GMPers got a bit better understanding of the issues we face. It got a little better. Buuut, of course they have a hard time maintaining credibility among both feminists and non-feminists, so (presumably) in a misguided attempt at that, they published that article you (and many others) took offense to. Rest assured it didn’t work on our side either.

    What are some issues we care about?

    * The right to be fathers to our children.
    * Sentencing disparity and legal discrimination.
    * Court abuse and false accusations.
    * The refusal to acknowledge men as victims of violence.
    * Lack of support options for men.
    * Homelessness (the “glass cellar” – some 90% of the homeless are men)
    * Suicide and depression.
    * Success objectification.
    * The increasing educational gap.
    * Expendability/Invisibility.
    * Circumcision.

    I could write essays on all of them, can’t go into details now. Suffice to say we are not about sending you “back to the kitchen” or anything. We’ve nothing against women (especially not the ones of us who are hetero!), but we reserve the right to interpret our own experiences, and to contest feminist interpretations and narratives when they cast us as something we aren’t, and the right to “go our own way” – live without necessarily seeking any woman’s affection or approval.

    • You are entitled to your opinion. But there is one piece of what you said that I cannot let stand as-is. You say that “some 90% of homeless are men.” But the data I have found shows that is untrue.

      According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 39% of the total (US) homeless population are children (people under the age of 18). In addition, when segregating populations by those with and without children, men comprise 35% of homeless adults with children and 67.5% of single adults. Here’s the link with more info: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/who.html

      What you might be thinking of is the fact that a disproportionate amount of the homeless adult population are male veterans. According to this PBS fact sheet on homelessness (http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/526/homeless-facts.html) 40% of homeless men are veterans.

      And this 2012 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that the largest factors for homelessness were (1) poverty, (2) children who aged out of the foster care system and adults released from prison, and (3) lack of access to affordable health care and/or health insurance. http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-in-america-2012

      Considering the seriousness of homelessness, I just didn’t want to let misinformation stand. It is a systemic problem that effects every demographic of our society (see the PBS fact sheet for how people of color are disproportionately homeless compared to non-Hispanic whites, for instance).

      • While I appreciate a good cherry-picking as much as the next lady, the fact that this is the only response you gave is insulting. This man went out of his way to welcome you to read up on the actual history of the MRA movement in relation to GMP, and you just blew it all off to refute one section of his extremely well-articulated point.

        I never made the connection before, but you are spouting some seriously intellectually dishonest misinformation. People like you are why most MRAs will not engage with feminists, because you either outright lie or ignore truly valid points and still say you care about equality.

        Also, you are intentionally manipulating the numbers to look better. You say that 39% of the US homeless are children. Do children suddenly not have a gender? Can a homeless person not be male simply because they are under 18?

        And if men make up 70% of ALL homeless in the US, isn’t that still an overwhelming majority? Don’t they deserve help?

        You should be ashamed.

      • Depending on how you count, particularly on whether you inlcude people in shelters and other temporary accommodation, sure, you can get a good deal less than 90%. Unless you pick out very specific subgroups (sure, not many homeless men have kids. Good luck keeping your kids if you are a single homeless man!), men are still a large majority.

        Veterans, adults released from prison, children who aged out from foster care: men are overrepresented in all these categories. One group your sources didn’t mention was LGBT kids who have been thrown out by their parents, boys are overrepresented there too.

        Still, the focus is on women, for instance because they are a fast growing group of the homeless. Yeah, they are, but it will be a long time until there is equality on the bottom.

        I don’t blame organizations for focusing on women even when women are relatively advantaged. They rely on sympathy, from both the public and authorities, to get funds and get stuff done. Men in distress simply evoke less sympathy than women in distress.

        This is the sympathy gap, the underlying factor for most of our problems. But this phenomenon is almost entirely unacknowledged by feminists, even as they rely on it to achieve their own (usually justifiable) goals.

  4. Woah, woah, woah. I stopped reading as soon as you made a connection between rape-apology and anti-feminism. Frankly, I’ve always disliked the Good Men Project because of the way it brands itself falsely as a potential hub for MRAs. However, what I really wanted to point out is that rape apology does not equal anti-feminism.

    I consider myself anti-feminist and most definitely not a rape-apologist. There are many things feminism has gotten wrong and screwed up. In many walks of life your movement has actually embraced hate (take a look at the feminist protest against Warren Farrel at UofT, or the calls for male genital mutilation or male infanticide) much more than any MRA groups have.

    It’s insulting that you consider anti-feminism so evil, when truly it’s just an intellectual response, and disagreement, with feminism. If you are for censorship then by all means continue your MRA shaming, but if not then I advise you open up to other points of view. Otherwise you will remain an ignorant bigot, like most other feminists.

  5. TGMP is essentially a feminist site. You come across as just another narcissistic man-hating feminist who knows that you have to attack and put down men all the time, but in this case you accidentally lashed out at someone on your side. Funny.

  6. Not a single word on this post delivers the idea that Emmily is “man-hating.” Unless being an equal partner with her husband (a MAN! go figure) who helps her do research is somehow subversively a sign of “hate”…

    • ah yes, the good ol’ excuse of “but i have black friends, I can’t be racist”.

      She looked at a website that is without a doubt at least equal gender. A few, and literally a few, were edgy showing the dark side of the debate. Because of this, she claims the entire site is anti-feminism. Somehow these 2 articles makes everyone, even the female board members, non-feminists.

      I know male feminists that think literally that men in general are bad people. That they are aggressive and should be restrained. Just as there are women who think feminism is bad.

      The fact is, a few articles, explaining the mind of a rapist, is seen as defending it, while the vast majority of the articles are pro gender equality. This is a classic “no true scottsman” fallacy, where just because they are not up to your expectations, they must be wrong.

  7. i appreciate how seriously you take what you post and like in social media. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had conversations with people who repost some article they saw on twitter and when I ask them questions about why they liked it they admit they never even read it. I appreciate your voice Emmily. I appreciate the forum you have created and I think you have shown what a high level of integrity you put into every word you post. Thank you for all you do.

  8. I don’t know how recently they added this, but this is at the head of the piece:

    Publisher’s Note: This article has been published in an attempt to show how dangerous the thinking is in some circles about rape, intoxication and partying. It is meant to be a damning examination of what can happen to young men and women, and will continue to happen without a much more significant national discussion about consent. Please read this with the understanding that it makes the case for consent education. It is not a defense or excuse for rape.

    Editor’s note: This is a difficult article to read, and to publish. It is a frank, open confession about a certain commonly-accepted form of rape culture, and readers with rape triggers should probably avoid reading it. We at the Good Men Project do not endorse or support the author’s worldview. We only believe it speaks to a common experience that is often taken for granted, often dismissed, and rarely talked about, except in vague and theoretical terms. We want to make very clear that we do not agree with the author’s conclusions, but we want people to understand that this type of thinking about party culture and consent exists.

  9. Pingback: Top SCS posts of 2013, part two | The Sin City Siren

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